While the real estate market has been a roller coaster in recent months, prompting many potential home buyers to pump the breaks on their impending residential searches, there is one demographic in that has illustrated a steady increase in home buying: seniors. In fact, according to ConstructionCoverage.com, which provides research to help businesses in the construction industry, homeownership among seniors has surged to over 80 percent. In Atlanta, the report notes, seniors make up 6.5 percent of metro area home buyers today.
“This trend may be in part attributable to larger numbers of wealthy Baby Boomers entering the 65-and-over age bracket,” ConstructionCoverage.com’s report reveals. “With more than 71 million Boomers controlling an estimated $70 trillion in wealth, the share of 65-and-over homeowners may continue to increase as the last of the Baby Boomer cohort reaches that age.”
With this in mind, it’s no wonder that metro Atlanta’s active adult real estate market has virtually exploded over the last few years. Active adult communities can be found all across the metro area, and more are being added to the list every day. And this segment of the market has evolved lately to match the unique needs—and slightly changing demographics—of these particular home buyers.
A New Age
In years past, the concept of a senior home buying market focused on a much older age group, with those in their 70s and 80s falling into the category. However, the active adult designation has expanded to include much younger individuals who are moving into the next phase of their lives—namely the empty nest years.
Judie Woodall, a managing member of Strategic Real Estate Advisors, observes, “We have begun seeing a slightly younger empty nester group starting in their early 50s.” Laura Watkins, president of Marketing Results, Inc., agrees. “This segment is skewing younger than in years past,” she says. “We are seeing more 50 and 60 year olds purchasing today.” In fact, according to Kimberly Garwood, director of marketing for Traton Homes, while active adult buyers in general range from ages 55 to 80, the majority of recent empty nesters are in the 55 to 60 age group.
The reasons these individuals are choosing to consider active adult living are as numerous and varied as the home buyers themselves. To start, downsizing is a key factor, with empty nesters looking to move on from large, older homes that worked perfectly for their growing families but now seem too spacious and require a great deal of maintenance. Yet, leaving a longtime home in this instance is not a sad experience. “Rightsizing is not about giving things up,” Woodall notes. “It’s about keeping the things you love while embracing the fun and freedom of the next passage of your life.”
“It’s about a lifestyle change—having ‘me’ time, enjoying a smaller, low-maintenance home and making new friends with similar interests,” Watkins reveals. And when it comes to a low-maintenance lifestyle, Carrie Rogiers, marketing manager for Fischer Homes, explains that this can mean a variety of things, from having less interior space to take care of to requiring fewer outdoor chores to maintain your home’s exterior. And the right active adult community will give you the perfect balance of the things that you need most as you move into your golden years.
At Home: Form and Function
When it comes to purchasing the ideal residence, Garwood points to several must-have interior items for today’s buyers. “Some of the key features look for are bedrooms on the main level, stepless entry into the shower, level-entry garages and homes with few or no steps,” she notes. “They also like covered and screened porches and an outdoor area large enough for personal gardening or a small fenced area for pets.” Rogiers adds that one-level living is a key consideration for many buyers. Yet, Garwood continues, “Many recent empty nesters may want to keep in mind the number of additional bedrooms they might need; our plans provide the option to add a second level with a media room and an additional bedroom and bathroom for children, grandchildren and guests.”
The home’s exterior is equally important; however, not having to maintain a yard is critical for most empty nesters. Fortunately, a majority of today’s active adult communities offer that coveted feature. “Yard work will be a chore of the past, and you’ll have more time for activities,” Rogiers says. Garwood adds, “Empty nesters are looking to leave their lawn mowers behind and enjoy the benefits of a lock-and-leave lifestyle.”
Beyond these common requirements, there are an array of even more contemporary features that empty nesters look for among active adult home options. According to Watkins, some buyers may want an office or work space, as many individuals are still working at this point in their lives. What’s more, Woodall says, “The appeal of energy efficient features, materials, technologies and much lower utility bills are high on the list. The goal is clean, new and chic. Out with the old, in with the new.”
In the Community: The Social Network
For empty nesters, the community in which they settle needs to be the right fit, and that often begins with the social opportunities afforded by the neighborhood. “People want the opportunity to interact with neighbors and have a social life beyond their kids,” Watkins states. “It’s about lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle.” Fortunately, many active adult communities offer myriad options and locales for meeting and gathering with neighbors, from clubhouses and pools to green spaces and more. “Living in a 55+ community makes it easy to make friends and enjoy a sense of community with others in the same phase of life,” Garwood observes. According to Woodall, having in-community resort-style amenities also “makes it easier for the kids and grandkids to say, ‘Let’s go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the weekend or for a week during the summer.’”
Additionally, the greater surrounding community also can add to an active adult neighborhood’s allure for empty nesters. “These buyers look for a desirable location with lots of local amenities, such as shopping centers, restaurants, recreation and healthcare,” Garwood says.
In the end, today’s empty nesters are looking for the complete package in an active adult community. And the reason is simple. As Woodall says, “Finding a home that’s the right fit is the key to a happier, healthier life.”
Where to Start
If you’re an empty nester just beginning your new home search, be sure to check out these highly sought-after active adult communities and offerings from some of the area’s most prolific 55+ builders.
• Lake Arrowhead:
A gated mountain, lake and golf master-planned community located just outside of Canton, Lake Arrowhead has become one of the area’s most popular destinations for home buyers 55 and older, as the ever-growing development offers an unparalleled suite of 55+ homes. According to Woodall, there are exciting new plans and neighborhoods being released in Lake Arrowhead in 2022, all of which are ideal for a primary residence, second home, weekend getaway or rental opportunity. The options include lakeview homes, modern mountain cottages, lakeview ranch homes, estate home sites with acreage, expansive mountain and golf view homes and golf villas. Visit Website
• Soleil Belmont Park:
One of the newest options in the local active adult market, Soleil Belmont Park from Patrick Malloy Communities offers what it calls “55-and-Better Living.” Situated on more than 400 acres conveniently located between Canton and Milton, the community is slated to open soon with beautifully appointed, low-maintenance residences sitting on large home sites and ranging from the $400s to the $700s. What’s more, the community offers a host of outdoor amenities. Visit Website
• Traton Homes:
While Traton Homes has been building in the Atlanta market since 1971, the company entered the active adult market in 2018. Today, the company boasts several active adult communities, including Courtyards of Camden in West Cobb, Kirk Ridge in Marietta and Courtyards at Ebenezer in East Cobb. Its most recent community is Courtyards at Hickory Flat in Canton in Cherokee County, with Courtyards at Traditions off of Majors Road in Forsyth County soon to follow. Each of Traton’s active adult communities boasts its own unique style and fantastic amenities package. And the well-appointed ranch homes feature spectacular indoor and outdoor living spaces. Visit Website
• Fischer Homes:
Fischer Homes is making a splash in metro Atlanta’s active adult real estate market with Poplar Place, a gated 55+ community located in Dallas. The new community features the Patio Home Collection, which offers residences with the privacy and well-appointed beauty of single-family homes coupled with a low-maintenance lifestyle. The community soon will be home to a clubhouse with a fitness center, outdoor living space and flex room for activities, as well as walking paths, a pickleball court and bocce ball. Visit Website